We were packed up and ready when Justin finally got home. We loaded up the car, and started driving to the airport, but Justin realized halfway there that he'd forgotten his wallet. So we had to turn around and circle back for it. At this point I'm not sure that either of us were looking forward to the trip. It just seemed like too much hassle. We stopped at a KFC for dinner. Justin ordered a potpie, and back on the freeway discovered that they hadn't included a spork with his food. So after a few swear words from him we circled back yet again to go back for an eating utensil. We were finally on our way. We arrived in Alamosa at midnight, were checked in and had everyone settled into bed by 1am. We were still planning a 5am wake up to go see all the birds fly off the next morning at once.
When the alarm went off four hours later I seriously contemplated getting up. I even sat up, and then I looked at my two toddlers and their exhausted little sleeping faces and decided that I'd be okay not seeing the birds all fly at once in the morning, maybe we could catch them returning together in the evening instead.
We woke up, went to breakfast, and were on the road to go search for cranes, out with the self-proclaimed "craniacs" by 9am. We had done some reading on where to find them, so it didn't take us long to locate a decent flock...do you call them flocks? I have no idea, but regardless there were a bunch of them. We sat around and watched them for a while...doing nothing, and then a whole huge flock, or group, or whatever of them came flying in all at once, which seemed very interesting, but to be honest, they were birds standing around in a field, and as I've mentioned before, we're not bird people. It didn't take too long before we were getting kind of bored, and the kids had already been bored for some time. We were hoping to see the cranes doing their weird little mating dance, but they just stood around in a field and that gets old after a while. We decided to move on.
|Part of the large group landing|
|After a while they weren't flying anymore, just standing around in the field like this.|
|Watching them fly around was pretty interesting.|
To help fill the daytime hours while we waited for the evening return to the nesting area we decided to visit Colorado Gators. An alligator farm in the middle of nowhere Colorado. We'd driven past it before, and even talked about going to visit some day if we had more time...and now there we were, with more time. I'm not sure exactly what I expected...maybe a dozen or so alligators lounging around their hot springs I guess. When we pulled up the place looked sort of garbagey and redneck and then in the lobby, if one can call it a lobby there was a display of digits soaking in formaldehyde that have been bitten off during alligator wrestling. You can take lessons and build up to wrestling a 9 foot gator for only $100. The injuries were described in such detail that standing there reading it I was curling up my fingers and wishing that I could stop reading, but naturally I did not. It was quite disturbing. They have a big sign up above the pictures of some injured wrestlers that reads "it only hurts until you pass out," and with that cheery thought we began our tour.
You start off inside, and the staff there told us that in addition to their alligators they're also running a rescue of sorts for unwanted exotic pets. The tour begins with the unwanted pets. Why in the world was someone keeping an Anaconda as a pet? WHY? Why did someone have a monitor as a pet? Rattlesnakes, Piranhas, Caymans were a few of the others that just beg the question what in the heck was someone thinking? Vivian held a coral snake, and Justin and I both took turns holding this baby alligator, a rescue from someone in Wyoming. Okay, seriously, why did someone in Wyoming think it would be a good idea to take on a pet alligator? Why?
|There were at least a dozen or more of these Sulcata Tortoises|
|Holding the Coral Snake|
|Me and a small alligator|
That being said, we were already feeling like this experience was worth every penny of the admission fee and we hadn't even seen a full grown gator yet. We continued on to the fish. Koi fish. Tons of them. And then these fish that you can feed...we think that they're Tilapia, because Colorado Gators started out as a Tilapia fish farm and they brought a few gators in to clean up the fish scraps. There are so many of them. When you toss the fish food in at them the whole pool writhes around in front of you. It's fascinating.
Feeding the Tilapia
Mixed in there was a snapping turtle...who in their right mind would want a snapping turtle as a pet? There were lizards, birds, and all sorts of harmless turtles. It was all very interesting, and then at last we ventured outside to the gators. It was shocking. I swear there must be at least a hundred of them in various sizes. They gave us a bucket of smelly little fish pellet things to feed them, and that's pretty awesome watching them snap at the little fish pellets you've hurled at them. We had a great time. We took hundreds, literally hundreds of pictures.
|Snapping at that tiny little fish pellet off to the left of it's mouth there.|
|Justin had to hold Vivian up to throw the pellets in to this one.|
|One of the biggest ones there.|
|There were so many of them.|
|Snapping at more pellets.|
|These were some of the juveniles.|
|They just needed to verify that the teeth are sharp I guess.|
At the end there were three albino alligators, and an alligator that was retired from Hollywood after being in a bunch of movies and allegedly trashing a few movie sets as well. There were also some emus and a couple of wolves and more turtles. It was fantastic. Justin loved it, I loved it, Vivian loved it, and Ivan even seemed to find it at least interesting enough to keep him quiet for the most part. We even bought a souvenir magnet, and generally speaking, we never buy souvenirs. That's how much we loved it. ...if you can just get past the fingers in the lobby. Seriously, just don't stop and read about it, you'll be sorry. My fingers hurt just thinking about it.
|The albino alligators|
When we finally left we felt like our day was pretty much complete. We drove into Great Sand Dunes National Park, but the kids had just finished eating a late lunch and drifted off to sleep, it was pretty windy, and so we talked it over, decided to let them be, called it a day, and headed home. We'll go watch the cranes all fly back in the evening some day in Nebraska.
On the drive home Vivian woke up and the first words out of her mouth were "I liked feeding the gators today." So did I Viv, so did I. When we got home and I was bathing the kids I realized that we all smelled like those little fish pellets that we had been feeding the alligators. Gross, but worth it. I can't wait to take Ivan back when he's Vivian's age. He's going to love it! We set out with the idea that the cranes were going to be the big highlight of the day, but the gators definitely took center stage and we're so glad that we took the trip out there to see them.